Malpelo Island: Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary, World Heritage Site (Colombia)

Malpelo Island: Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary, World Heritage Site (Colombia)

Thu, 01/03/2019 - 12:23
Posted in:

The pristine underwater environment of Malpelo Island's Fauna and Flora Sanctuary, off Colombia's Pacific coast, features dramatic cliffs, rock formations, caves and tunnels resulting in striking natural beauty. This vast marine park provides a critical habitat for threatened marine species.

Malpelo Island

Malpelo Island and its rocky outcroppings, represents the highest elevation of the enormous underwater Malpelo Ridge. Despite its small size the island is believed to play an important role as an aggregation point for the reproduction of numerous marine species.

It is the only island that rises above the surface from the Malpelo Ridge, which is a solitary volcanic submarine ridge. The ridge extends in a northeast-southwest direction with a length of 300 km (190 mi) and a width of 100 km (62 mi). The island is surrounded by a number of offshore rocks.

Malpelo Island and its satellite rocks boast a limited but highly specialized terrestrial biodiversity characterized by a high degree endemism, including five plant species, three reptiles and two arthropods.

The rocky outcroppings support large colonies of Nazca Boobies, as well as important populations of Swallow-tailed Gull, Masked Booby and the critically endangered Galapagos Petrel.

Due to the remoteness and protection efforts the conservation status of the property is excellent, making Malpelo one of the top diving destinations in the World.

Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary

The Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary is a large marine protected area, located some 506 km off the Pacific coast of Colombia. This World Heritage Site includes the barren Malpelo Island and the surrounding marine environment.

This vast marine park, the largest no-fishing zone in the Eastern Tropical Pacific, provides a critical habitat for internationally threatened marine species, and is a major source of nutrients resulting in large aggregations of marine biodiversity.

It is in particular a ‘reservoir' for sharks, giant grouper and billfish and is one of the few places in the world where sightings of the short-nosed ragged-toothed shark, a deep water shark, have been confirmed.

Widely recognized as one of the top diving sites in the world, due to the presence of steep walls and caves of outstanding natural beauty, these deep waters support important populations of large predators and pelagic species.

Aggregations of over 200 hammerhead sharks and over 1,000 silky sharks, whale sharks and tuna have been recorded in an undisturbed environment where they maintain natural behavioral patterns.


The vast majority of the property, 857,465 ha (2,118,840 acres), is a "marine wilderness" constituting the largest no-fishing zone in the Eastern Tropical Pacific. The rugged underwater topography includes steep walls, caves and tunnels, reaching a depth of around 3,400 m (11,150 ft).

Jointly with the local confluence of several oceanic currents, this complex terrain is the basis for highly diverse marine ecosystems and habitats.

The sanctuary hosts impressive populations of marine species, including large top predators and pelagic species, such as Giant Grouper, Billfish and numerous shark species. Major aggregations of Hammerhead Shark, Silky Shark, Whale Shark and Tuna have been recorded.

Other biodiversity highlights include 17 marine mammal species, seven marine reptile species, 394 fish species and 340 species of mollusks. Known marine endemics include five fish species and two sea star species.

Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary belongs to the Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor, a marine conservation network, which also includes World Heritage properties in Costa Rica, Ecuador and Panama.